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One Summer: America, 1927
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on August 1, 2017
I discovered Bill Bryson some years ago listening to the audiobook of his fantastic "A Short History of Nearly Everything". I constantly recommend that tome to whomever will listen. I have gone on to read many of his other works, "A Walk in the Woods" and "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid", in particular. I find Bryson to be immensely entertaining, funny and informative in equal measure.

"One Summer: America 1927" is another great addition to the Bryson pantheon of wonderful books and to my library. Bryson's ability to weave together several apparently disparate threads into a cohesive, interesting narrative is a real gift. From Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis and others flyers making history, to Babe Ruth and the Yankees and their season for the ages, to Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover and the politics of the day, to Prohibition and its effect nationally and on Chicago with its mayor Big Bill Thompson and the rise and precipitous fall of Al Capone, to the trial and eventual demises of Sacco and Vanzetti, to the invention and growth of "talkies" and television and the death of silent films and much more, Bryson is the master puppeteer, dangling the various stories to delight of the reader.

Bill Bryson is a master. I always look forward to his next book, and "One Summer: America 1927" is no exception. Scarcely does a page go by that some captivating fact is not revealed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it highly. The book covers so much territory that you are bound to find something interesting to you. Treat yourself.
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on November 24, 2013
Bill Bryson's narration of this fascinating study of the seminally important events in the (extended) summer of 1927, brings covers events in politics, inventions, economics, sports, crime, inventions, business which impacted not only America's future but the world. He deftly covers some background material and seamly flows into his current topic and then carries the story forward. It's a fun and educational read, often a real page turner, and well recommended.
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on September 8, 2016
This is one of Bryson’s more entertaining books. The prose flows and you really feel transported back to the 1920’s in the USA. There are chapters on each of the well-known figures of the time – Lindbergh, Capone, Babe Ruth, Clara Bowe, etc. – and really enjoyable portraits of other minor characters, who shouldn’t be minor, and descriptions of major events. If you have a brain, but want to take a break from your usual cerebral fodder in reading materials, this is the book for you. Especially fun is playing some of the music from the Roaring Twenties while you’re reading or even stopping to watch some of the YouTube videos about the events that Bryson describes ((the Dempsey fights, President Coolidge’s speech, Pinedo’s crash, etc.)
A couple caveats are in order.
For non-American and/or non-baseball buffs: there is a lot about that sport Curiously, Bryson doesn’t hesitate to cite the esoteric statistics, but then he feels obliged to explain what a “shortstop” is, or what an ERA is. It is difficult to imagine who he imagines his audience is. Brits would find the baseball details tiresome and Americans would find the explanations useless.
Then there is the usual journalistic hyperbole Bryson always indulges in. For example, the “most striking thing” about the Tunney Dempsey fight was that it started fifteen minutes late. This is not only silly, but it’s even contradictory. . Bryson says elsewhere that Al Capone’s presence and the controversial knockout were the most important elements. Maybe he doesn’t re-read his book for false and spectacular claims.
In any case, if you need a break and want to learn something, this is one of Bryson’s finest.
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“So it is perhaps worth pausing for a moment to remember just some of the things that happened that summer (of 1927): Babe Ruth hit sixty home runs. The Federal Reserve made the mistake that precipitated the stock market crash. Al Capone enjoyed his last summer of eminence. The ‘Jazz Singer’ was filmed. Television was created. Radio came of age. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. President Coolidge chose not to run. Work began on Mount Rushmore. The Mississippi flooded as it never had before. A madman in Michigan blew up a school and killed forty-four people in the worst slaughter of children in American history. Henry Ford stopped making the Model T and promised to stop insulting Jews. And a kid from Minnesota flew across an ocean and captivated the planet in a way it had never been captivated before.” - Author Bill Bryson in ONE SUMMER

Bill Bryson, as an American writer, is a national treasure. Here in ONE SUMMER, he captivates once again with a narrative of the events that took place in the United States during the period May to September of 1927. Many of the backstories, e.g. the history of pioneering airplane flights, the ostensible criminal activity of Sacco and Vanzetti, or the evolution of motion pictures with dialogue (“the talkies”) of course extend back further into earlier years; Bryson tells these backstories without necessarily anchoring them in a definitive timeframe. It’s their culmination in the hot months of 1927 that fascinates him and the reader.

There’s a certain hierarchy of events and personalities. At the top of the pyramid are Charles Lindbergh and his trans-Atlantic flight followed by his triumphant tour of America. Next down, and very close, is the remarkable summer played by Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees. Then, there are all the other events and characters - plus others - alluded to by the author himself in the quote at the beginning of this review. As in all of Bryson’s works, the fun of the read is in the wealth of details and the gentle humor with which he often regards them.

“(Al) Jolson was not an adorable person. His idea of a good joke was to urinate on people, which may go some way to explaining why he had four wives and no friends.”

“Illinois imposed no restrictions on the sale of tommy guns, so they were available to the general public in hardware stores, sporting goods stores, and even drugstores. The wonder is that the death tolls in Chicago weren’t higher.”

For the reader, the content of ONE SUMMER perhaps compels one to frequently detour to Wikipedia to get even more information about an interesting personality. Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to read the book!

ONE SUMMER includes a 14-page photo section that is suitably all-encompassing plus an “Epilogue” chapter that wraps up nicely what needs to be wrapped-up.

ONE SUMMER is about as satisfying a read as I could hope for.
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on May 3, 2017
Good book, one of several that I've read from this author. I learned a lot I didn't know about this decade and some of its lively characters. Mr. Bryson's humor was reflected in the writing but not at the same level in which I've experienced it from his other books. However, still aeasy and enjoyable read. It was interesting, too, as 1927 in so many ways seemed to mirror the year 2017, but was written a few years back. Interesting food for thought that some things never change when it comes to politics, the media, entertainment, sports, Americans' unique POV and man's hubris in many aspects of the world around him.
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on August 2, 2015
I have been a fan of Bill Bryson since the early days of "Lost Continent." I know that book doesn't get a lot of love by most reviewers but it gave me some wonderful flashbacks from my own childhood family vacations. Just to give you an idea of where I am coming from, I admit I read that book more than once. I have since read about a dozen of Bryson's subsequent books, enjoying some most, some more than others, with most falling in my 4-star column. "One Summer: America, 1927" is in a class by itself, my favorite of all his books that I have read. Not only is the content surprisingly fascinating, but Bryson's writing style is at its best. I don't fact check history books (especially if I am extremely entertained by the material) but I suspect that the content is at least as accurate as what would have been written in the newspapers covering the events as they happened. I wish Bryson would have written all my history books way back when. 1927, not all that long ago, but what a completely different world it was.
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I never knew so many momentous events occurred in a single summer--Lindbergh's flight to Paris, Lindbergh's aviation promotion tour of America, Ruth's greatest season, Sacco & Vanzetti's trial and execution, record rainfall and flooding across the country, Coolidge's announcement he would not run for reelection, Hoover's publicity apex. Bryson's prose and humor puts all this in an interesting perspective. This is the first Bryson book I have read. His style lives up to the high praise I had heard from my many book-loving friends. The portraits he paints of the main characters--Lindbergh, Ruth, Coolidge, Hoover--gave me visions of these people I did not have before. On the whole, I thought this was a very informative and entertaining read. I intend to read more Bryson.
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I started this as I have been a Bryson fan since "A Walk in the Woods" some years ago and a positive review appeared in our local paper. I really wasn't expecting much. How interesting could a single American summer be? Especially one that preceded me by 2 decades. I mean I know most of this stuff - Babe Ruth's record, Lou Gehrig's history, the flight of Lindbergh, etc. Little did I know! The Chinese curse comes to mind - "May you live in interesting times!" These were extremely interesting times and the more details and digressions he presented, the more interested I became. A great job of research and distillation and a phenomenal job of writing. For someone who is interested in history and trivia told in an entertaining style, this book is a hit. My favorite of the year.
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on March 25, 2017
This guy is such a good writer, the summer of 1927 is a very good story. Well worth reading in 2017. Great way to learn about the 1920s in a very interesting well written format. Get the book you'll like it!
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on September 30, 2015
As to Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America 1927.” I’m not really going to write a review. 2164 people have already done a great job at that on amazon.com. I will say it’s a great read and I strongly recommend it. But I want to talk about the reason why I read it – to understand the times my parents lived through. which has me reading David Halberstam’s “The Fifties” at the same time.

I loved Bryson’s book. His writing style is delightful. What got to me is realizing the amazing changes that took place in America and, indeed, the world, almost without people knowing it. Oh yes, people were excited about specific events. I must say, poor Lindbergh had my sympathetic understanding of the misery his Scandinavian shyness created for him as he became such a lauded hero. Some of the stories of how he – and his mother – handled it are really funny. I don’t think you have to be a Scandinavian to appreciate it.

But the thing that got me is how many of our current problems are rooted in the events of those days. Adding to that Halberstam’s events of the 50s – when I thought I was a grownup – just highlights how much things are changing right now right before our eyes, or maybe secretly behind our backs.

Aside from learning more about my parents’ lives, I find myself hoping to live another 30 years (yeah! Not likely!) to understand what’s going on now, just as Bryson’s book made it fun to understand what was going on in 1927.
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